Divya Prabha (Lucy Guest) says that in some mysterious ways unconsciously her passion for Sanskrit came with her from her previous life. She remembers as a child being fascinated with the calligraphy strokes that she says she now understands to be ए. “I had known since a young age that I was going to do “something” what that was over time became clearer and also eventually manifested unexpectedly!” says Divya.
Children at the gurukula which Divya runs in Varanasi - the International Chandramauli Charitable Trust - get up at 3 am even in winter and start their day with sandhya, mala japa, asana, pranayama dhyan till 6 am. They study the Vedas from 7 am till 12 pm and then Sandhya and lunch followed by a break. Then they start vyakakaran, jyotish, ved bhashya, maths, English and computer science. Evening Sandhya and Japa is at 5.30 followed by live Rudrabhishek. “Then time for supper and off to bed so a very full on day.”
Divya did her Undergraduate and Masters with Honours at Oxford University UK, in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials. After some years of working in the City in London and on Wall Street for American Investment Banks, she changed the course of her life by leaving the UK with Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawraji Maharaj. She continued to learn under Swami Yoganand Parivrajak and came to Varanasi in 2006 to embark on Traditional Sanskrit Studies at Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya, Varanasi.“The real beginning in this life started with a life changing experience in meditation in 1999 which then brought Sanskrit mantras and Patanjali’s Yoga darshan into my life. There was a never a conscious decision to study Sanskrit because for me it was part and parcel of practice,” says Divya when asked when she decided to learn Sanskrit.
The deep immersion in Sanskrit occurred once she arrived in Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawraji’s ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas “where he taught amongst other things the Gita daily in English to a small group of us students. At that point I became inspired to read the Gita and Devanagari and every morning I would play a cd of Gita shlokas and attempt to join the sound through the transliterated letters to the original Devanagari form. It had a deep transformational effect on me where I felt a deep peace and steadiness combined the sense of knowledge being uncovered,” says Divya.
For Divya, Sanskrit is much more than a language. “It is a divine energy where the words and their meanings are eternal and that each of those vibrations is specific in terms of the effect and the form manifested as a consequence of that sound/energy. The more you study the closer you get to your real self which is of course the aim of life. In the Atharvaveda it says ashthachakranavdwaradevanam purayodhya ie this body which consists of eight chakras and nine gates is the dwelling places of the devatas and it is called Ayodhya - na yodhya Ayodhya ie the place of no battles/fighting you can say.”
“This means that Sanskrit which we also call devbhasha - divine language really exists inside us so it is a question of polishing the colourless crystal of the intellect, to go beyond the three gunas, to dissolve our individual mind, ego and intellect to get closer to the source of Sanskrit which automatically brings expansion in consciousness and ultimately knowledge of Paramatma.”
What connections do Yoga, Sanskrit and Consciousness have for Divya? “Yoga is intrinsically intertwined. If we look at the meaning in Panini’s Dhatupath (approx 2000 verbal roots split into ten ganas (root families)) we find yoga comes from two verbal roots. The first युजँ समाधौ and the second युजिर् योगे. The first gives the meaning of Samaddhi for yoga and the second union. Due to the specific nature of vibrations I am not a fan of translating into other languages but for the purposes of getting the just we could say that Sammadhi means Stable intellect/stable wisdom. The practices of yama and niyama before asana are of course essential and asana can be better understood through Patanjalis definition of sthirsukhamasanam ie that which is stable and pleasure giving (comfortable).
When there is a stable physical foundation only then can prana through pranayama be brought under control. Thought and breath are also twins which can bring thought under control - pratyahara as part of this process naturally takes place - leaving us ready for the next three internal practices which are intrinsically intertwined of dharana, dhyana and samadhi. For me Sanskrit Mantra is a core part of these practises because mantra itself means mananat trayete iti mantra ie mantra is that which protects you from the cogitations of the mind. The energy of Sanskrit is therefore part and parcel of yoga energetically and from a shastras point of view and they are also part and part of consciousness and realising the unity in diversity.”
Divya is a member of Yoga Mission in Varanasi which works with ‘underprivileged children in rural and inner city areas, using educational methods rooted in ancient traditions for sustainable and conscious living.’ CSP asked her how her Varanasi project came about and what associations does her seva have with Hinduism?
“Having been at top schools in the UK, studied engineering at Oxford and having what many would have considered a dream career I had realised that making money was not the key to a happy and peaceful life. I realised through the study of Sanskrit and the practices of Santana Dharma that these were the key to life and that with that knowledge and foundation anything was possible. That is what was behind setting up the project with Swami Yogananda Parivrajak and others. A trust was founded and out of the blue a decision to buy land in Varanasi was made and within three hours 1000sq ft had been found near Vishvanath mandir and the price was agreed. When Devatma Dubey joined, construction started, till then education was being given out of all our rented rooms.”
How do yoga and our Shastras teach Samskara? How does she impart this to the children in her care? Divya says Yoga has an effect on all three bodies, the physical, the subtle and the causal as does Sanskrit/Shastras. “We have seen profound changes in the children with this type of education, in fact sometimes we refer to them as children of light due the radiance that comes from them. We see their ability to be capable/apt in all sorts of different things from music to art, cooking and at the same time vast memorisation of the Vedas and other Shastras as well as comprehension in the way that was done more 100 years ago and earlier than in recent times. All of these things come together to give samskara. Ideally we eventually would love to take children as young as three for this very reason - samskara. In the time of King Harsh in fact there was punishment if a 5 year old child was found to be still living at home. So the earlier the better!”
Divya says that one of the difficulties she herself faced in learning Sanskrit, especially high school Sanskrit, was that she would have to cycle across Varanasi to six different places daily to study. “We realised that a gurukul was the best way that we could help society based on practises of yoga and of course all the Vedas, the six limbs of the Vedas etc. These are a way of life and have to be learnt and manifested in an immersive way because of course education means to “bring out” not put in.”
In all the Indian texts which impart this unique wisdom, Divya picks the Gita as the most important. “The most important text if you are only going to have one is of course the Gita which is unique in so far as it teaches liberation for a householder too as opposed to only a renunciant. It pretty much contains the answer to any situation we may find in life. Apart from that people have different interests which is why we have such a wide range of Puranas, Upanishads, Vedas, Patanjali Yoga darshan, Sankhya etc. For me it has hard to narrow down because everything I read at that moment is the best. Each granth carries the same message expressed a different way. Often telling to balance prana and apana and repeat Om. Even Tulsidas tells, repeating Ram correctly will take you from Kali Yuga to Satya yoga. All of these texts in Sanskrit no matter which will surely change you, bringing you closer to your formless form of Supreme consciousness and when you know that, the Vedas will be as useful to you as a drop of water to the ocean. My life would not be the same without having read Patanjali yoga Darshan, Yoga Vashisht, Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam,Vishnu Puran as many Upanishads as I can find, Valmiki Ramayan, Mahabharat and the Vedas.”
Her Guru would talk about bodh, prem and seva in that order. “With knowledge comes real divine love and only then Seva starts. It is an intrinsic part of the culture and ofcourse the word Hindu itself could be understood as Hinsayah duhyate yagya hridayam iti sa hinduh - That person who trembles at even the thought of violence (by heart). This is a state of consciousness nothing to do with religion and all the practices from ancient times are connected to the expansion of consciousness and therefore seva is the real nature of man. When realising Vasudaiva kutumbakam means that the whole earth is one family and that everyone is a reflection of yourself, ekatvamanupashytah how can you not perform seva?”
She has learnt through traditional gurus. “By sampradaya we are Ramanandi but we have been taught by Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawraji whose guru is directly Chandramauli (bhagwan) so in modern this times this makes us a little different. Guruji was always very clear the mountain is one and that there are many paths some were bhaktas, hatha yogis, jnana yogis etc.”
“In practise he taught us Maha Yoga which is a combination of Hatha yoga, Mantra yoga, Laya yoga and Raja yoga. Ultimately yoga is yoga and people are at different points of the same journey. Due to peoples’ individual nature through the three gunas it is not possible for man to accept one specific type of preaching and everyone follow it and that is why Sampradaya exists because everyone can find the right teacher and path for them. By the grace of divine this culture of Bharatiya Sanskriti has unshakeable faith in knowledge and the divine.”
Divya has deep dived into Indian culture at Varanasi, the beloved town of the Ganga. To her, Varanasi or Kashi is more than a location. “Its name literally does mean city of light and shastras tell that it is in a different Loka from the rest of the world and you can certainly feel that magic there. From a Sanskrit point of you it is amazing how much knowledge is available in almost every street. It is normal to bump into people who can speak Sanskrit with us as we move around. Being with Mother Ganga and Shiva in the form of Vishvanath and being the most ancient continuous civilisation on earth we have felt drawn and even divinely compelled to build up the gurukul in this special place.”
She says that while she doesn’t know overall how many foreigners come to a Varanasi to study Sanskrit, “I do know that anyone who has a good classical foundation in Sanskrit will have studied here. And there are at any point in time several dedicated students who often go all the way through from high school Sanskrit to PhD. There are always throughout the year people who come and go doing shorter programmes. Even some people who come every year for a few months to study, such as Ayurvedic practitioners in the US.”
She believes the divine energy of Kashi is always going to be a punya kshetram and it is all our individual responsibilities to offer things that fit with that. “It is a tirth yatra for all Sanatanis and for genuine seekers a great place to go and learn about the culture, philosophy, Sanskrit and Adhyatma. Of course, you also have Sarnath which is a holy place for all the Buddhist communities around the world. At the end of the day dharmah rakshati rakshatah. I am eternally grateful to the divine for bringing me into this culture, teaching me this knowledge and allowing me to live it. It truly is a divine gift. I have been very lucky.”
(Details about the International Chandramauli Charitable Trust can be found at www.chandramauli.org)